Trump and Biden to Hold Dueling Town Halls, After President Rejected Debate

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The presidential candidates will respond to questions from voters in prime time on Thursday at two live, nationally televised town-hall-style events. Unusually, the programs will be broadcast at the same time on rival networks, although recordings of each event will be available afterward.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. will appear at an ABC News forum held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and moderated by the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos. The 90-minute event begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time and will be followed by a 30-minute wrap-up featuring analysis from ABC political reporters and pundits.

About 20 voters from across Pennsylvania, of varying political views, will be on hand to ask Mr. Biden questions. Mr. Stephanopoulos will guide the discussion and ask follow-up questions.

Mr. Biden’s town hall can be seen on ABC television stations and on ABC News Live, an online service that can be watched on Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and other streaming platforms, as well as on the ABC News website.

President Trump’s NBC News event will be held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and will be moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie. The broadcast starts at 8 p.m. Eastern and is expected to last for about an hour.

About 60 Florida voters will be in the audience to ask the president questions; some of the voters are undecided, and some are leaning toward supporting one of the candidates. NBC said it was not discussing the question topics in advance.

The Trump town hall will air on NBC broadcast affiliates and the cable channels CNBC and MSNBC. It will also be streamed on NBC News NOW, an online service available on numerous streaming platforms, and available to watch on demand after the broadcast on Peacock, the NBCUniversal streaming service.

The event will also be available in Spanish on the digital sites of Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network.

The New York Times will cover the simultaneous events live, with real-time analysis from teams of reporters watching both candidates, on nytimes.com.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After a day of social-media blowback, the criticism is now coming from inside the network.

Stars and producers of hit NBC series — along with Rachel Maddow, the highest-rated anchor on MSNBC — have joined those assailing NBC News over its decision to air a town hall event with President Trump at 8 p.m. on Thursday, the same time ABC will offer a forum with his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Ms. Maddow, one of the few NBC News anchors with the clout to publicly chastise the network’s executives, raised the issue on her Wednesday show, asking Mr. Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, if she “was as mad as everybody else is that NBC is doing a town hall with President Trump tomorrow.” (Ms. Harris demurred.)

The anchor also called NBC’s scheduling decision “as odd as you think it is” alongside a graphic that said, “Apparently They Are Not Kidding.”

On Thursday, more than 100 actors and producers — including Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore, both of the NBC hit “This Is Us,” and Mariska Hargitay of the NBC staple “Law & Order: SVU” — sent a letter to NBC management calling the scheduling of the forum “a disservice to the American public.”

Four years ago the news division faced criticism for allowing The Washington Post to scoop it on the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape that showed Mr. Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women; NBC News had obtained a copy of the video days before it was made public.

The division’s current leader, Cesar Conde, previously ran Telemundo and Univision. Mr. Conde, who has limited experience with the rough-and-tumble of political coverage, issued a statement on Thursday addressing the criticism.

“We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden. Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations,” he wrote. “We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later time slot, we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum.”

Savannah Guthrie, an anchor on “Today,” will be the moderator, overseeing a group of inquisitive Florida voters while keeping tabs on a president who regularly lobs falsehoods and smears.

As Ms. Guthrie prepared for her hot-seat moment, one of her “Today” predecessors declared that NBC had made the wrong call. “Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy — voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will,” Katie Couric wrote on Twitter.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Before the first presidential debate last month, the polling picture looked bad for President Trump. Afterward, it looked even worse.

That is partly because so many voters were turned off by his bellicose performance at the debate, telling pollsters in overwhelming numbers that they had disapproved of his attacks on Joseph R. Biden Jr.

And the president’s Covid-19 infection, announced just days later, didn’t help either: Most Americans held him at least partly responsible for it, saying he had not taken the virus’s threat seriously enough, according to surveys.

As a result, what had been roughly a seven-point lead for Mr. Biden in national polling averages in late September quickly expanded. His average lead has now grown into the double digits.

In an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted after the president announced he had Covid-19, more than seven in 10 Americans said that he had not taken the risk of infection seriously enough, and that he hadn’t taken proper health precautions.

In both Florida and Pennsylvania, races that had looked competitive are now tipping more decisively toward Mr. Biden, according to polls by Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University conducted this month as the coronavirus flared back up in parts of the country — including at the White House — and Mr. Trump announced he had tested positive.

In each of those polls, Mr. Biden posted double-digit leads over Mr. Trump in the horse race. No credible poll of either state has put Mr. Trump in the lead since last month’s debate.

Mr. Trump also tends to trail Mr. Biden significantly on matters of empathy, and the former vice president often links Mr. Trump’s struggle to show compassion with his botched coronavirus response. “The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior — is senior Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden told a crowd at a community center Broward County, Fla., earlier this week.

The Quinnipiac poll of Florida found that 54 percent of likely voters said the president doesn’t care “about average Americans,” whereas 59 percent said that Mr. Biden does. In Pennsylvania, 55 percent said Mr. Trump doesn’t and 63 percent said Mr. Biden does.

Of course, the split-screen political theater of tonight’s town hall events presents a challenge for candidates seeking to persuade voters who might be disinclined to support them. Not until polls emerge in the coming days will we know whether many voters even tuned in to watch a candidate with the intention of having their vote choice changed.

Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

A federal court declined on Thursday to extend the deadline for Arizona counties to receive the ballots of voters from the Navajo Nation, where polling sites and post offices are few and far between.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs in Yazzie v. Hobbs lacked standing because, it said, they had not shown that they personally would be harmed by the deadline.

“While the complaint is replete with general allegations concerning the various hardships the Navajo Nation members who live on the reservation generally face with respect to mail voting,” the ruling said, “nothing in the record says whether Yazzie and her fellow plaintiffs have experienced ‘lack of home mail delivery, the need for language translation, lack of access to public transportation and lack of access to any vehicle’ such that the receipt deadline will harm their ability to vote in this election.”

The court also concluded that what the plaintiffs had requested — an extension applying only to ballots cast by Navajo Nation members living on the tribe’s reservation — was unworkable because it would not be feasible for election officials to identify such ballots.

Nobody on the reservation has home mail delivery, and there are only 27 postal locations in 18,000 square miles, roughly the equivalent to having 13 mailboxes in all of New Jersey. The lead plaintiff, Darlene Yazzie, lives in Dennehotso, from which mail sent to other parts of Arizona gets routed hundreds of miles through Albuquerque and Phoenix, and a ballot can take 10 days to reach the county recorder’s office.

The lawsuit, filed by the Native American voting rights group Four Directions, argued that the deadline — which requires all ballots to arrive at county recorders’ offices by Election Day — violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by giving Navajo voters less opportunity to vote than other Arizonans.

OJ Semans, co-executive director of Four Directions, said Thursday evening that the group was discussing its next steps.

“It is a terrible day,” he said, when “technicalities supersede common sense and what is right in front of them.”

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Trump Addresses Killing of Antifa Activist

During his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., President Trump spoke about the killing of Michael Reinoehl, a protester in Portland, Ore., by a U.S. Marshals task force.

By law they have to invite us in. We want to go to Portland so bad. That one would take 15 minutes to set, 15 minutes. And the man that shot another innocent man, this was an innocent man shot, killed, instantly killed. I said, what happened? Well, we haven’t arrested him. Two days, three days went by. We sent in the U.S. marshals. Took 15 minutes, it was over; 15 minutes, it was over. We got him. They knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him. Fifteen minutes, that ended.

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During his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., President Trump spoke about the killing of Michael Reinoehl, a protester in Portland, Ore., by a U.S. Marshals task force.

President Trump on Thursday cheered the actions of a federal task force that killed Michael Reinoehl, an antifa activist from Portland, Ore., who had been wanted in the fatal shooting of a far-right Trump supporter.

“It took 15 minutes, it was over,” Mr. Trump said to supporters at a campaign rally in North Carolina. “We got him.”

A New York Times article and a video reconstruction of Mr. Reinoehl’s death, based on the accounts of 22 witnesses and the officers themselves, raised questions about whether the officers made any serious attempt to arrest Mr. Reinoehl before opening fire with a stream of 37 rounds fired by four officers. While one officer told investigators he thought he saw Mr. Reinoehl grab a gun as officers pulled up, two others did not. A gun was ultimately found in Mr. Reinoehl’s pocket.

Mr. Reinoehl had been a suspect in the shooting death of Aaron J. Danielson in Portland, a participant in a caravan rally of Trump supporters who had clashed with racial justice protesters on Aug. 29.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that days had gone by without local officials in Portland arresting Mr. Reinoehl. (The authorities in Portland got a warrant for Mr. Reinoehl’s arrest on the day he was killed.)

“They didn’t want to arrest him,” Mr. Trump claimed. “We sent in the U.S. Marshals,” he went on. “It took 15 minutes, it was over. We got him.”

Mr. Trump, seeking to push crime and safety as major issues in his re-election bid, has brought up the shooting several times, once calling it “retribution.” A criminal investigation into the killing of Mr. Reinoehl, led by the sheriff’s office in Thurston County, Wash., where the shooting occurred, is ongoing.

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, berated President Trump in a telephone town hall with constituents on Wednesday, accusing the president of cozying up to dictators and white supremacists, mistreating women and United States allies, and failing to adequately confront the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible, or right,” Mr. Sasse said, according to audio obtained by The Washington Examiner.

He added that Mr. Trump had “careened from curb to curb” as he sought to respond to a pandemic that has claimed more than 210,000 American lives this year. The comments were confirmed by Mr. Sasse’s spokesman, James Wegmann.

Mr. Sasse’s critique played out over just a few short minutes after someone on the call asked the senator about his previous criticisms of Mr. Trump. The senator, who styles himself as a principled conservative, has never pretended to be a fan of the president. But even compared with his earlier remarks, his comments during the call were remarkably scathing.

“The way he kisses dictators’ butts,” Mr. Sasse said, listing his reservations about Mr. Trump. “I mean, the way he ignores that the Uighurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong-Kongers.”

He continued: “The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor.”

Mr. Trump, he added, “mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”

Mr. Sasse, who is up for re-election on Nov. 3, has never made a secret of his distaste for Mr. Trump. During the 2016 campaign, he compared Mr. Trump to David Duke and said he was not voting for him. In office, he called Mr. Trump’s signature trade war with China “nuts.”

But he had toned down his criticism in recent years, earning a crucial endorsement from the president he once savaged.

Mr. Sasse told constituents during the call that he was concerned the president’s failures and “stupid political obsessions” would empower Democrats.

“If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future,” Mr. Sasse.

In a statement, Mr. Wegmann said that Mr. Sasse would only be talking about Senate races, which he argued were far more important with a Republican majority under threat.

“I don’t know how many more times we can shout this,” Mr. Wegmann said. “Even though the Beltway is obsessing exclusively about the presidential race, control of the Senate is 10 times more important.”

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Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who was recently battling a coronavirus infection, said on Thursday that he had been “wrong” not to wear a mask at an event honoring Judge Amy Coney Barrett or in his debate preparation sessions with President Trump, and that people should take the threat of the virus seriously.

In an interview with The New York Times and in a written statement, Mr. Christie said that he had believed he was in a “safe zone” at the White House while he was there. He urged people to follow best practices, like mask wearing and social distancing, but argued there was a middle ground between extensive, large-scale shutdowns and reopening cities and states without taking proper precautions.

Mr. Christie said he had spent days in the intensive care unit of the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, after taking himself there on Oct. 3 at the insistence of his doctor. Mr. Christie, who was at high risk for negative effects of the coronavirus because of his weight and because he has asthma, was one of several people around Mr. Trump to contract the virus. Mr. Trump announced early on Oct. 2 that he had tested positive.

Mr. Christie had led Mr. Trump’s debate preparation sessions, and attended the Sept. 26 event honoring Judge Barrett, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden. White House officials are looking at that event as a cause of the spread of the virus to more than a dozen people.

“I believed when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day,” Mr. Christie said in the statement. “I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team.”

“I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow C.D.C. guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others,” he said.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

When President Trump makes his appearance on Thursday night on NBC News, he is expected to speak, probably maskless, with the moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and the audience sitting at least 12 feet away. But he is unlikely to transmit the coronavirus to any of those people, multiple experts said.

Since Mr. Trump first announced his diagnosis this month, questions about his infectiousness have swirled because it is still unclear exactly when and how he became ill or how severe his symptoms have been.

“From a safety standpoint, and a public health standpoint, I think it’s probably fine, although we don’t have all the information that I would like to have in order to make that call,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Mr. Trump announced his positive test in the early hours of Oct. 2, and was given several powerful treatments in rapid succession, including monoclonal antibodies to give his immune system a boost and a steroid that prevents dangerous inflammation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that infected patients isolate for at least 10 days if they had mild or moderate illness, and for up to 20 days if they had severe symptoms. The steroid Mr. Trump received, dexamethasone, can also prolong the duration of infectiousness.

But without information about Mr. Trump’s oxygen levels or scans of his lungs, it’s impossible to know how severe his illness has been, doctors said.

After a hospitalization of four days, Mr. Trump has begun holding in-person rallies again, often drawing crowds of maskless supporters.

The chief White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, has sometimes provided cryptic reports on the president’s recovery. On Monday Dr. Conley said that Mr. Trump had tested negative multiple times on the Abbott BinaxNOW test, which is not intended to confirm the absence of the virus. The doctor also alluded to other results not provided by any commercial test.

But on Tuesday, at the insistence of NBC News, the White House provided Mr. Trump’s result from a P.C.R. test — the gold standard lab diagnostic for the coronavirus — to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health.

After reviewing the data, they cleared Mr. Trump to attend the town hall event. “We feel confident that we can say with a high degree of confidence that he is not transmissible,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview on Wednesday.

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

President Trump called Facebook and Twitter “terrible” and “a monster” and said he would go after them. Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn said they would subpoena the chief executives of the companies for their actions. And on Fox News, prominent conservative hosts blasted the social media platforms as “monopolies” and accused them of “censorship” and election interference.

On Thursday, simmering discontent among Republicans over the power that Facebook and Twitter wield over public discourse erupted into open acrimony. Republicans slammed the companies and baited them a day after the sites limited or blocked the distribution of an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The criticism did not stop the companies. Twitter locked the personal account of Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, late Wednesday after she posted the article, and on Thursday it briefly blocked a link to a House Judiciary Committee webpage. The Trump campaign said Twitter had also locked its official account after it tried promoting the article. Twitter then doubled down by prohibiting the spread of a different New York Post article about the Bidens.

The actions brought the already frosty relationship between conservatives and the companies to a new low point, less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which the social networks are expected to play a significant role. It offered a glimpse at how online conversations could go awry on Election Day and underlined how the companies have little handle on how to consistently enforce what they will allow on their sites.

“There will be battles for control of the narrative again and again over coming weeks,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who studies social media companies. “The way the platforms handled it is not a good harbinger of what’s to come.”

Facebook declined to comment on Thursday and pointed to its comments on Wednesday when it said the New York Post article, which made unverified claims about Hunter Biden’s business in Ukraine, was eligible for third-party fact-checking.

In a tweet, Twitter said, “We recognize that Twitter is just one of many places where people can find information online, and the Twitter Rules are intended to protect the conversation on our service, and to add context to people’s experience where we can.”

Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday that “it is only the beginning” for the social media companies. He followed up on Thursday by saying he wanted to “strip them” of some of their liability protections.

Credit…Andre Chung for The Washington Post

The C-SPAN network on Thursday suspended Steve Scully, a producer and politics editor who had been set to moderate the second presidential debate before it was scrapped, after he said he had lied about his Twitter account being hacked.

In a statement, Mr. Scully said that he had “falsely claimed” he was not responsible for a tweet he sent Oct. 8 that was addressed to the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Mr. Scully said that, before the tweet, President Trump had publicly accused him of partisan leanings, and that he had been “subjected to relentless criticism on social media and in conservative news outlets regarding my role as moderator for the second presidential debate, including attacks aimed directly at my family.”

Mr. Scully said that he was acting “out of frustration” when he posted to Twitter: “@Scaramucci should I respond to trump.” The next day, when he saw “that this tweet had created a new controversy,” he claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked.

“These were both errors in judgment for which I am totally responsible,” Mr. Scully said. “These actions have let down a lot of people, including my colleagues at C-SPAN, where I have worked for the past 30 years, professional colleagues in the media, and the team at the Commission on Presidential Debates.”

Soon after C-SPAN suspended Mr. Scully, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to commend himself for showing “good instincts in being the first to know” and declaring that “the debate was rigged.”

Mr. Scaramucci wrote on Twitter that the suspension was a “brutal outcome for a silly non political tweet,” calling the action “cancel culture going too far.”

C-SPAN said in a statement that Mr. Scully, a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, admitted to lying about the tweet to the network and the debate commission late Wednesday. The network said that it had placed him on administrative leave and was “very saddened by this news.”

But, the network said, “after some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute to C-SPAN.” Mr. Scully, who in 2013 also blamed several tweets on hackers, has been involved with C-SPAN’s election coverage since 1992.

“He has built a reservoir of good will among those he has interviewed, fellow journalists, our viewers and with us,” the network said.

Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York, on Thursday endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president, writing in Vanity Fair that “the only way to end this nightmare is to vote.”

Ms. Giuliani, who describes herself as a “filmmaker in the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community,” long ago broke with her father politically. In 2008, when she was 17 years old and her father was running for president, she posted on Facebook that she was a “liberal” and joined a group called “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack).”

In 2016, she endorsed Hillary Clinton. This year, she has chosen to add her voice to the discourse at a time when Mr. Giuliani is again embroiled in a campaign to tarnish a Democratic presidential candidate. Mr. Biden is the target this time, of unsubstantiated allegations that his team has dismissed as a disinformation campaign.

“If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president’s personal bulldog has taught me anything,” Ms. Giuliani writes, “it is that corruption starts with ‘yes-men’ and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power.”

She added: “We’ve seen this ad nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren’t convicted, anyway).”

Ms. Giuliani, in her essay, acknowledged that Mr. Biden was not her first-choice candidate in the Democratic primary. But she said progressive voters who care about climate change, or the rights of women, immigrants and people of color, couldn’t afford to let lukewarm feelings keep them home.

“If I, after decades of despair over politics, can engage in our democracy to meet this critical moment,” she said, “I know you can too.”

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Biden campaign announced Thursday that it was suspending Senator Kamala Harris’s campaign travel through Sunday after two people who had traveled with her tested positive for the coronavirus. Hours later, the campaign said a person who had been aboard Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s plane had also tested positive.

The announcements were the Biden campaign’s closest known brush with the virus. The two people who had traveled with Ms. Harris — her campaign communications director, Liz Allen, and a flight crew member — flew with her last Thursday, when Ms. Harris campaigned with Mr. Biden in Arizona.

The person on Mr. Biden’s flights who tested positive, an employee of the company that charters the plane, was aboard for trips to Ohio on Monday and to Florida on Tuesday, but was a great distance from Mr. Biden, the campaign said.

“Our campaign’s contact tracing remains ongoing, and my team will continue to share any significant developments with the American people,” Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter. “If anything, let this serve as an example of the importance of wearing masks and keeping a safe, social distance.”

Ms. Harris had been scheduled to campaign in North Carolina on Thursday and in Ohio on Friday. She will now return to the campaign trail on Monday. The campaign said she had tested negative for the virus on Wednesday and again on Thursday.

Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement that Ms. Harris “was not in close contact, as defined by the C.D.C., with either of these individuals during the two days prior to their positive tests; as such, there is no requirement for quarantine.”

But Ms. O’Malley Dillon said Ms. Harris’s travel through Sunday was being canceled “out of an abundance of caution and in line with our campaign’s commitment to the highest levels of precaution.”

During a virtual fund-raiser on Thursday, Ms. Harris addressed the positive tests and the campaign’s response, and drew a comparison with President Trump. “We wanted to make sure that we were adhering to what has been, I think, a very appropriate and strict level of seriousness around the caution that we are exercising to make sure everyone is safe,” she said. “Obviously, it’s been in stark contrast to you-know-who.”

On Thursday afternoon, the campaign said that the person aboard Mr. Biden’s plane, an administrative employee with the charter company who had been contacted during contact tracing for the crew member who traveled with Ms. Harris, had also tested positive.

The employee was seated in the last row of Mr. Biden’s plane, a Boeing 737, on Monday and Tuesday, and was more than 50 feet away from Mr. Biden at all times, Ms. O’Malley Dillon said. “We have been advised by the vice president’s doctor and the campaign’s medical advisers that there is no need for the vice president to quarantine,” she said.

Mr. Biden will appear at an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia on Thursday night. The campaign said that Mr. Biden had tested negative for the virus on Wednesday night.